Angela Gossow is used to screaming her lungs out – but what else does she have to shout about?
As a female vocalist in a death metal band, you’re something of a pioneer. How did that happen? In 1999 I interviewed Michael [Amott, the band’s founder] for a metal website, and because I was always fishing for support slots I gave them a demo tape. They watched it and, when [vocalist] Johan Liiva left in 2000, they asked me to audition. Back then it was a completely new idea, but their first three albums weren’t going anywhere and the band was basically finished, so they could take the risk.
So you saved Arch Enemy? I guess! [laughs] At first we put the songs on the website without saying who the vocalist was, and people assumed that I was a guy from another Swedish band, because the scene is so small. So when it turned out to be an unknown woman from Germany, they were amazed. So that helped promote the album, Wages Of Sin, but it helped that it was full of kick-ass songs. It wouldn’t have worked if the music wasn’t there. People lose interest in gimmicks quickly.
Did people just see you as a gimmick? In the first year everybody loved me, but after that, envy started to creep in. Then people were saying, ‘It’s a gimmick – the band won’t make it to another album,’ or, ‘Women will bring problems into the band.’ But I had this when I was 16 years old and in small bands, and I wasn’t going to bow to it at 26. And I’ve proven that I’m a real musician: there aren’t any backstage stories and I haven’t done any nude photos. People like to pick up on rumours, but there’s nothing for people to tell about me.
Got any tips for women in metal? You can go the fast way and do the nude calendars and magazine shoots or whatever, but then people will get into you for all the wrong reasons. In the long run it’s better to establish yourself as a musician and get some credibility. There are many more women in metal bands these days, but they are still faced with that choice. It never happens to a guy – they can take off their shirts, but they’ll always be the musician first.
You’ve said that your shows are different from many death metal bands – how so? Well, we have five well-established musicians and, unlike many metal bands, we highlight everyone. So everybody gets their solo spots, like you’d see with classic metal bands like Whitesnake. And I think some people are surprised when they see an extreme metal band playing a drum solo.
How do you sing brutal vocals without damaging your voice? I train a lot. I learned basic singing techniques like proper abdominal support and breathing, and I do a 10-minute warm-up routine before every show. It’s really useful because first you always know where your voice stands, and if it’s not a good day you cut out the long and high screams.
Does it surprise people to learn that death metal vocalists do training? Yes, but people are opening up to this vocal style, especially vocal teachers – they have people coming to them and saying, ‘I really like Slipknot – he sings but at the same time he screams. Can you teach me how to do that?’ And the vocal coaches have no idea how it’s done, and when they look into it they realise it’s really tough to do.
And presumably you have to rest your vocal chords between gigs. So this interview isn’t helping… [Having to rest my throat] is kind of annoying, because when you’re on tour, everybody’s like, ‘Let’s go out and party!’ And you have to cut out the party time at least until the end of the tour. Vocalists seem to have the least fun, but that’s just the way it is.